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Saskatchewan marketing blitz -

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Kolla

Calgary Herald - Saturday, March 01, 2003

"Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert had a tough sell Friday as he attempted to lure Calgary residents and investment dollars back to Canada's breadbasket.

Speaking to a Chamber of Commerce audience dotted with some of the 37,000 people that have left his province for Alberta in recent years, Calvert admitted Saskatchewan is seen as "a place you travel through, not to."

His government wants to change that image with a $2-million, three-year marketing blitz, launched last fall. The Future is Wide Open campaign touts Saskatchewan as a great place to live and do business.

"The perception of the province of Saskatchewan is that it is flat, we grow wheat and it's probably 40 degrees below . . . That's no longer true," he said.

Although Calvert admitted the province experienced -40 C temperatures a few days ago, he said Saskatchewan led job creation in the country this January for the fourth month in a row. The province's personal income taxes, once the highest in the country, are now the third lowest in Canada, he said.

Calvert also aimed his investment message at the oilpatch, noting the province is now the second largest oil producer and third largest natural gas producer in Canada.

In a bid to continue growing the industry, Saskatchewan recently lowered royalty and tax rates for the oil and gas industry.

Calvert found a receptive audience Friday. But the chamber's members didn't appear ready to pack their bags just yet.

Daryl Zerr, a Calgary media consultant who grew up in Regina, said he wouldn't have the same salary and job opportunities if he moved back.

"I've heard all of what Lorne said before and I know there are great things about Saskatchewan but my lifestyle is suited to Calgary," said Zerr.

Saskatchewan's efforts to attract more energy investment are meeting with praise from players like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The association called the recent changes to royalty and tax rates "a step in the right direction," and noted they helped boost land sales and drilling activity in the province 50 per cent over last year.

John Zahary, president of intermediate oil producer Petrovera Resources, is enthusiastic about doing business in Saskatchewan and is featured prominently in new advertisements for the Future is Wide Open campaign.

Petrovera is Saskatchewan's third largest oil producer and has most of its assets in the province.

Yet its head office remains in Calgary.

"It makes sense for us," said Zahary. "Pretty much all head offices (in the energy industry) are in Calgary. It's got the proximity to services -- accountants, different suppliers, the other companies we work with."

But the Saskatchewan Party, the province's official opposition, said there are other reasons companies like Petrovera aren't locating in the province.

Party Leader Elwin Hermanson said high taxes and the burden of heavy regulation are chasing away investment.

"I think the idea (of a marketing campaign) is right but there needs to be substance behind it. If the future is really more open than before, then it's legitimate," he said.

But Calvert argued Saskatchewan is making the necessary changes. And he said the campaign to advertise this is working. The government's polling results suggest positive responses to the campaign, especially among young people.

"We're seeing results but it's early. This is a three-year campaign, not a three-week or a three-month campaign," he said. "

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